Identity Theft Explained by a New York Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Internet has brought forth a relatively new kind of crime: identity theft. As more and more of our identities and personal information wind up online and stored in countless databases, it is easier than ever for dedicated thieves to steal personally identifying information and use it for their own purposes. Because the scale and methods of the crime are relatively new, you may want to contact a New York federal criminal defense lawyer with experience in this field with your questions.
Identity theft is usually committed by obtaining specific information about a person that can be used to impersonate him or her. Most commonly, this includes a Social Security number (which is needed to open a line of credit), bank account numbers, website logins and passwords, or credit card numbers. The methods used to obtain this information range from low-tech to high-tech, as a New York federal criminal defense lawyer can tell you. Sophisticated computer hackers will spend months trying to hack into a database they know contains a trove of personal accounts. Alternatively, an identity thief might dig through recycle bins looking for thrown-out bank statements or pre-approved credit card offers. Some thieves use social engineering, in which they contact a target over the phone or the Internet and try to persuade them them to divulge sensitive information; for example, by pretending to be a representative from a bank. Even a mistake as innocent as forgetting to log off of your computer when you are finished using it might provide an opportunity for someone to commit identity theft. The unfortunate reality is that much of the information we use and access routinely, such as credit card numbers, date of birth, driver’s license numbers, family contacts, and phone numbers, are potential vectors for identity theft.
The common element in all forms of identity theft is someone obtaining personally identifying information without the owner’s consent with the intent to use it for their own personal gain. One important fact that your lawyer will note is that the crime of identity theft does not require someone to actually do something with the information. It is enough to have the intention of using the information. For example, someone who mistakenly finds a dropped credit card and writes down the number on the card with the intent of using it later has still committed identity theft, even if they never actually use the number.
The penalties for identity theft vary depending on the jurisdiction, the type and scale of the information obtained, and the amount of damages caused. Possible penalties include prison time, fines, and restitution. For first-time offenders, probation may be offered.
If you are being investigated for identity theft or have questions about it, you may want to speak to a New York Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer. Call the Law Office of Frederick L. Sosinsky at (212) 285-2270.